(SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead)
There have been several disputes over whether or not Kylo Ren, the main antagonist of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is a spy (e.g. here and here). While these arguments bring up interesting points on both sides, it seems clear that there simply isn’t enough evidence to prove that the Master of the Knights of Ren is actually a double-agent. There is, however, plenty of evidence to see why he should be one: Rey should be evil, and there are 3 reasons Kylo Ren’s role as a spy would greatly improve the story of this new trilogy:
If the later films of the sequel trilogy explained that Kylo Ren was working against Snoke, the audience would gain an awesomely different understanding of Kylo Ren’s muse. He speaks to Darth Vader as a source of inspiration within The Force Awakens, and if Kylo’s trickery was revealed, we’d get a fresh outlook on the scenes involving Kylo Ren’s obsession with Anakin Skywalker—and the writers could use a number of details to convince us of this surprise:
Rey senses that Kylo Ren is seeking to replicate Vader’s actions. She knows his deepest fear is that he may never be “as strong as Darth Vader.” Nevertheless, future films could show that she failed to realize that his fear isn’t in failing to destroy a Rebellion—it’s in failing to overthrow Snoke, much like Darth Vader overthrew the Emperor.
Additionally, Kylo Ren tells his idolized grandfather—whom he never actually addresses as Vader, but only as “grandfather”—that he will “finish what [Vader] started.” Here, if he were a spy, Kylo Ren wouldn’t be referencing the downfall of the Jedi; he’d be talking about returning balance to the Force and ending the reign of an evil leader, just like Darth Vader did. Since Darth Vader shifted into goodness in Return of the Jedi, it would make sense for him to stay there and for Kylo Ren to be talking about helping the light side of the Force when he explains that “I’ll let nothing stand in our way.” This correlation to such a tremendous character as Darth Vader could make the audience appreciate Kylo Ren more, as he would no longer be a failing villain, but a lonely hero. It would also create a fantastic surprise for fans who could go back to these quotes and see that they fit perfectly for Kylo Ren playing a saboteur role.
A reveal of good intentions would also give further meaning to Kylo Ren’s words, “Forgive me. I feel it again. The pull to the light… the Supreme Leader senses it.” Later films could explain that Kylo utters these words because, for him to truly invade Snoke’s ranks, he has to be steeped in the dark side. He has to follow evil commands, slay his father, and massacre the Resistance until he’s finally close enough to Snoke to kill him. Such a character might be “torn apart” by the things he must do if he’s a spy. He might still feel the call to the light, which would bring out a compelling, desperate plea to help him stop feeling that call so Snoke would continue trusting him.
To continue receiving aid in this act of deception, however, it would also be logical for Kylo Ren to ask Vader to “show me again—the power of the darkness.” Anakin Skywalker, who destroyed his government, his community, and his own wife, would easily be able to show Kylo Ren the horrors of the dark side. So, when Kylo Ren asks to see the power of the darkness, he wouldn’t be asking for Vader’s bestowal of a dark ability. Instead, it would be much more interesting and unanticipated if he were asking for a vision of the awful things Snoke can do to the galaxy, and for a teaching of why he should sacrifice everything—his name, honor, and family—all in the attempt to stop the First Order.
It’s clear that there is a unique opportunity for fans to reinterpret these moments as Kylo’s attempts to remind himself of how and why he’ll take down the First Order. Such a surprise would offer fans a chance to rewatch The Force Awakens with their perspectives flipped upside down, and it would subtly make Kylo Ren a more interestingly conflicted character.
- Changing the Power Struggle:
The Master of the Knights of Ren could also surprise the audience by providing an intriguing contrast to the Original Trilogy—and he could do this with a variety of captivating explanations. In The Force Awakens, he’s involved with a power struggle that is familiar to the fans of Star Wars: Episodes V and VI:
Vader tells Emperor Palpatine that Luke “will join us or die” in The Empire Strikes Back, much like Kylo Ren when he assents to Snoke’s command to “Bring [Rey] to me.” Later in Episode V, Darth Vader proposes to Luke that they join together and rule the galaxy, showing serious disloyalty to his master. In Episode VII, Kylo Ren mimics this action when he tells Rey that he can show her the ways of the Force—hinting towards the same perfidy his grandfather had by recommending himself as Rey’s teacher, not Snoke. Just as the struggle for Luke’s loyalty continued throughout the rest of the Original Trilogy, it seems that we could find a very similar tussle for Rey’s support in Episode VIII.
However, not only does Kylo Ren disregard Snoke’s command by offering his training to Rey, but he also offers training in “the ways of the Force”—not in the dark side. He makes an offer that is strikingly similar to Darth Vader’s proposal, yet in this case, it has nothing evil mentioned in it. If Kylo were a Resistance spy, then instead of asking for help in galactic domination in this scene, he would simply be checking if he can train this warrior and eventually unleash her against the First Order. This ulterior motive would be a thought-provoking change—instead of a rote replication—of the power struggle seen in the Original Trilogy. This change would also help set this film apart from the exhaustive criticism marking The Force Awakens as a simple rehash of its predecessor.
Of course, if Kylo Ren considered training Rey for a good purpose, the writers of these films would need great reasons for why he destroyed Luke’s Jedi Temple and his trainees, and why Kylo Ren wouldn’t send Rey to train with Luke. But these explanations behind Kylo’s altering of the power struggle could be even more intriguing than the altering itself.
Kylo might have been fully seduced by the dark side and killed all those in the new Jedi Order before realizing he was mistaken—much like Darth Vader did through Episodes 3 to 6. Or, if Kylo was ruthless enough and needed a way to prove his loyalty to Snoke, he may have slain Luke’s trainees under the belief that he’d eventually slay the leader who had no qualms about destroying entire star systems. Another—and possibly the strongest—explanation could be that both Kylo and Luke knew that subterfuge was the best idea, and they sent all other apprentices into hiding while Kylo spread the rumor that he’d murdered them. This justification could explain why we still haven’t seen Kylo killing an apprentice and why Rey had been “abandoned” (or, more accurately, hidden) on Jakku—and it would also clarify why Kylo Ren was so concerned that the First Order knew about “a girl” from the same planet.
Kylo’s position as a spy would have also made it especially difficult to send Rey to Luke—perhaps he wouldn’t trust this girl just yet with the knowledge that he was a saboteur deep in enemy territory. Perhaps Kylo Ren found himself to be more powerful, able, or willing to complete his dark task than Luke was, and didn’t want to send Rey to the lesser soldier. Maybe, if Luke somehow understood Kylo’s intentions, he would want to stay hidden so Snoke would waste resources searching for him, all while Kylo came closer to slaying the Supreme Leader. Whatever his reasons, however, it’s clear that Kylo could have a number of explanations for what happened to himself and Luke before changing the power struggle in The Force Awakens.
All of these possible explanations show how Kylo Ren’s being a spy would only add fascinating intricacies to the story in this trilogy. If Kylo Ren was actually seduced to the dark side and then later returned to the light, or all the trainees were sent into hiding or were abandoned, we could have a much more elaborate backstory behind the characters and the plot of the new trilogy—and such convoluted explanations might force the audience to choose which characters are truly good or evil.
- Complex Actions:
If he were a spy against the First Order, Kylo Ren’s actions would also be more powerful and intriguing. As a determinedly evil, albeit unstable villain, Kylo is a character more common to many stories and a little easier to analyze. But, if he’s a spy against the First Order, then he’s a multifaceted saboteur demonized by his allies, revered by his enemies, and plagued by his need to maintain a façade of evil loyalty to Snoke. A mix of these traits, combined with a borderline insane ruthlessness needed to continue fooling the Supreme Leader, would provide the audience with a riveting character to watch and understand.
Each of Kylo’s actions as a spy would attempt to maintain a balance between devotion and incompetence. There are several examples of these actions with possibly clandestine objectives in The Force Awakens: Kylo obtains the description of the BB unit from Poe Dameron, but when his troops attack Maz’s palace and nearly capture the droid, he calls off the fight. Though he captures Rey and sees that she’s very powerful, he only leaves her guarded by a single Stormtrooper. He defeats Finn in combat, but only grazes the traitor along the back and disables him instead of destroying him. While some have attributed these failures to Kylo’s incompetence, they are so consistent and repetitive that they could be intriguingly explained by his need to maintain a façade of evil while actually slowing down the First Order.
Of course, there are two other actions that would be even harder to justify, even from a dedicated spy’s standpoint: allowing the destruction of the Hosnian system and murdering Han Solo. However, a closer look shows that writers could draw on two fascinating reasons for Kylo’s genocide and patricide.
First, if Kylo Ren is a spy, he would know his job is to sacrifice everything so that the First Order will fall. He wouldn’t just be offering up a lot of his time or his career to this mission; he’d know he might have to give up millions of others if it means he’ll eventually save the rest of the galaxy. If he were such a dedicated saboteur, he’d have to be cutthroat and merciless—allowing him to rationalize away the death of billions in the Hosnian system so he can kill the Supreme Leader who might destroy trillions. This kind of hard-hearted soldier would also know that if his father is within range, he must seek him out and kill him to make Snoke much more trusting. Commitment like this would force the audience to consider the fascinating question of whether or not such an awesomely determined character is truly good or evil.
Second, while killing his father may still be hard to do for the good of the galaxy, Han’s abandonment of the Resistance might have made his death worth the cost. If Kylo were a spy, it’s possible that Han’s eventual desertion of the fight against the First Order completely enraged his son. Kylo would have dedicated his services and his life to combating evil without receiving any thanks—to see his father return to smuggling in the midst of this raging war could easily infuriate Kylo and make him despise his father’s apathetic actions. This anger would be an interesting aspect to explore as a reason for his undying dedication to his mission.
Kylo’s carefully crafted appearance of dedicated incompetence would only add to the reasons he should perform the atrocities in The Force Awakens and blaze the secret path to the First Order’s downfall. And, while watching the death of billions and slaying his father in the name of righteousness would by no means be simple, Kylo’s merciless devotion and Han’s indifference to the galaxy’s fate might have made the actions worth the cost for Snoke’s increasing trust. All of this implied rationalizing, ruefulness, and ruthlessness would present the audience with an immensely complex hero. With pure intentions behind such evil actions, Kylo would clearly border on being psychotic, and such a questionable protagonist would be an incredible character to watch and analyze.
This is an intricate, multi-faceted idea to tackle. Kylo Ren would have to use some seriously questionable explanations to justify his behavior. But whether or not he would accomplish all of his misdeeds through deceit, rationalization, or fury, a good cause behind such actions would create an intriguing, complicated story focused on a horrifying protagonist—and the actor for Kylo Ren, Adam Driver, gave a description in an interview that perfectly explains how such a fascinating person could exist: “When they think of their actions as morally justified, it makes them dangerous and unpredictable. There’s no level they won’t go to accomplish what they’re after. I never thought of [Kylo Ren] as an evil person.”